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Russia Just Said There Are ‘No Winners’ in a Nuclear War. Should We Be Confused?

Russia Nuclear Weapons
Cold War Nuclear Weapons Test. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has just released a video in which its spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, states: “The Russian Federation is fully committed to the principle of the inadmissibility of nuclear war. We have repeatedly said and confirmed this. There can be no winners in such a war – one should never be unleashed.”

Just last week Russian dictator Vladimir Putin openly stated that he’s not bluffing about defending Russia with nuclear weapons. That threat immediately led to panic and soul-searching in the West, as policymakers scrambled to come up with adequate responses to the threat and to the possibility of first use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

What’s going on here? How do we explain these mixed signals?

There are several possible answers.

First, this could be a sign of confusion in the Kremlin. Putin has gotten noticeably weaker and more focused on micromanaging the war. He may not have the time, connections, and information that he would normally need to know what Russia’s massive state is up to. The scenario is plausible, especially if one considers the chaos on many parts of the front.

Second, it’s possible that Putin is hoping to bamboozle the West—to confuse and divide it with mixed messages and thereby reduce its capacity to make good decisions. This scenario assumes Putin is very much in charge, so much so that he is capable of planning complex disinformation campaigns.

Possible? Yes.

Likely? Marginally.

Third, there may actually be serious disagreement within the Russian elite about the war. In transitional periods—and Putin may be in one—elites jockey for position and power by adopting various kinds of policy stances. Although it’s hard to imagine Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, as a Putin opponent, it’s not impossible that he and his minions see the writing on the wall, know that trials at The Hague are inching ever closer, and that taking a pacific stance might help them when prosecutors come with handcuffs.

There’s another interpretation, one more in line with the irresistible Russian propensity to lie. Every Russian with an opinion insisted in January-February 2022 that war was unthinkable. And then Putin invaded. It’s therefore conceivable that Zakharova’s statement is simply eyewash intended to reduce Western vigilance.

This interpretation has an additional twist. Zakharova insists on the inadmissibility of nuclear war. She never says that the first use of tactical nuclear weapons is also inadmissible.

The tragedy is that Zakharova may be sincere. Unfortunately, the Putin regime has practiced an elevated form of mendacity for two decades and cannot be trusted. The safe bet is to assume the Russians are lying once again.

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”

Written By

Dr. Alexander Motyl is a professor of political science at Rutgers-Newark. A specialist on Ukraine, Russia, and the USSR, and on nationalism, revolutions, empires, and theory, he is the author of 10 books of nonfiction, including Pidsumky imperii (2009); Puti imperii (2004); Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires (2001); Revolutions, Nations, Empires: Conceptual Limits and Theoretical Possibilities (1999); Dilemmas of Independence: Ukraine after Totalitarianism (1993); and The Turn to the Right: The Ideological Origins and Development of Ukrainian Nationalism, 1919–1929 (1980); the editor of 15 volumes, including The Encyclopedia of Nationalism (2000) and The Holodomor Reader (2012); and a contributor of dozens of articles to academic and policy journals, newspaper op-ed pages, and magazines. He also has a weekly blog, “Ukraine’s Orange Blues.”

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Rick

    October 6, 2022 at 5:24 pm

    Is the runt trying to climb down from that nuclear ledge? Perhaps he is smarter than he looks?

  2. Meremortal

    October 6, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    Read the quote again, carefully.

    “Vladimir Putin openly stated that he’s not bluffing about defending Russia with nuclear weapons.”

    See the word “defending”? Why would the USA use nuclear weapons? Why do we have them? To attack other countries in aggression or to defend?

    Also, in nuclear conflict there are no winners, but there are bigger and lesser losers depending on location, location, location.

  3. 403Forbidden

    October 6, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    THERE’RE NO WINNERS IN A NUCLEAR WAR.

    Imagine if Biden decides to hit Russia with nukes, what would then happen. Russia would use its surviving nukes to hit back and result is two nuclear powers smouldering in ruins and nuclear poisoning.

    But things aren’t even as simple as that.

    Biden would be duly asked by his handlers or advisers whether US needs to also hit china with nukes as allowing china to ‘take over’ world after nuclear fight between US & Russia would be simply intolerable.

    But a nuclear strike on china would also mean US lackeys like Japan and australia could get very similar treatment. Result is ww3 and complete chaos.

    There certainly are zero winners.

    Russia could also explode a coupla nukes in space causing complete economic collapse of western Europe and elsewhere.

    Bank ATMs would immediately cease to function, credit card companies would be unable to sustain operations, utility companies becoming unable to keep track of their power and throughput stations, looting at gas stations, warehouses and walmarts.

    People all over world would start behaving like animals with only the very strong and well-armed surviving madness and chaos.

    No winners in nuclear war.

    BUT if Biden chooses to ignore any russian use of mini nukes or tactical nukes against rampaging ukros neo-nazi forces, world could certainly be saved from ruin and chaos.

    Then, there would be winners. Russia gets to wipe out ukros, Biden continues his rhetoric and his endless threats of sanctions and bank ATMs continue to function.

    So, the fate of world now lies in the hands of one man – a man badly afflicted with mental ailments like dementia, definitive memory loss and brain cognitive function and inability to keep track of ongoing events.

    Will the predictions in REVELATION finally come to pass with the actions of the ukro neo-nazis armed and supplied by Biden in pressing forward against Russian soil and Russian citizens.

    Answer could come as early as (before) next month’s Bali G20 summit.

    In the meantime, readers and writers at 1945dotcom would be well prepared orcwell advised to have adequate food stocks at home.

    Aldo, make sure you have some adequate physical cash at hand plus enough stocks of daily necessities like toilet paper and toothpaste and liquid soap to last several months.

    DON’T HOPE FOR BIDEN’S WISDOM OR BRILLIANCE TO SAVE YOU !

  4. Michael White

    October 7, 2022 at 12:03 am

    Russia can’t defeat us even with nuclear weapons for one they may not work and we can overrun Russia before they can get out of the silos they’re getting whooped by the Ukraine they don’t have a military force to stop NATO and several different nuclear powered countries that would annihilate Russia before they could get their weapons out of the ground. Plus those weapons that aren’t spoken of at all things like lasers that could probably put down even the longest range weapons the greatest weapon might be a submarine but they’re one country they don’t have many submarines Ukraine is already blew up most of their Navy they’re not a threat even with a nuclear weapon at least three countries in their neighborhood are armed with nuclear weapons right on their border no they’re not going to do that they’re one country.

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